Time to rethink remote working in South Africa 

Global Business Solutions senior consultant Natalie Singer says fuel price hikes are having an adverse effect on employees' financial wellness

The fuel price recently breached the R17-per-litre mark and will now increase further in the coming weeks. For most people, a tank of fuel for a mid-size car will now set them back nearly R1000. The knock-on effect for food prices will place an even greater strain on the wallets of most South Africans leading to demands for higher wage increases.

In an economy that is technically in recession, the demand for increased pay is often simply not possible for many organisations that are also struggling with escalating operating costs and slowing consumer demand. So how can organisations balance the need to keep employees happy and engaged with their limited budgets?

Perhaps its time to consider remote working as an option?

Depending on the distance employees live from work, even one day of remote working per week could drastically reduce their fuel spend and ease the burden.

Remote work enables employees, typically those who perform “knowledge work”, to work outside of a traditional office environment. It is based on the concept that work does not need to be done in a specific place to be executed successfully. And with technology and connectivity efficiency and effectiveness not dependent on a fixed workstation.

So, instead of travelling daily to work at a designated desk in a specified office, remote employees can execute their projects and deliver their KPA from wherever they please. In addition to saving on time and cost, these individuals also receive the benefit of flexibility, enabling them to structure the day to balance professional and personal lives.

But what about productivity, I hear you ask?

Well, numerous studies have shown that productivity increases with remote work as individuals are able to work in a way that best suits them, without the distractions and frustrations often associated with commuting and office environments. A two-year long Stanford University study showed that remote workers’ productivity boosted equivalent to a full day and retention of staff improved too!

Of course, for remote working to be effective employer and employee should be clear about the work that needs to be done so that performance can be measured, not in hours, but rather in output. Set clear goals and deadlines and track progress on priority tasks and projects regularly. By including the employee in the process of developing their work plan, including reporting and regular contact with colleagues, levels of accountability increase.

The shift to a culture that is Results-oriented – not timebound – will not only enable employees to be more flexible in their work hours and places but will ensure that everyone is measured on output and becomes accountable for producing value.

Increasingly, top talent is seeking new opportunities in organisations where they can structure their work to meet their lifestyle and family demands, and so adopting remote working and flexible hours could improve your ability to attract and retain the best skills.